Supreme Court to hear petitions challenging Aadhaar in November
The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear petitions challenging various aspects of Aadhaar, in the first week of November.
Attorney general K.K. Venugopal sought a five-judge constitution bench be set up for this purpose, but the court has not taken a decision on this. The Centre also told the court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar in order to access social welfare benefits had been extended to 31 December. The earlier deadline was set at 30 September.
A total of 22 cases have been tagged by the apex court to be heard by a smaller bench on Aadhaar.
They challenge several aspects of Aadhaar as well as the use and sharing of data collected under the programme.
Among these challenges are those involving making Aadhaar mandatory for social welfare benefits, infringement of the right to privacy, making Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns, and for obtaining and retaining a permanent account number, or the PAN.
The outcome of these pending cases that will be shaped by the judgment on holding privacy as a fundamental right, will ultimately determine the fate of the Centre’s 12-digit unique identification project Aadhaar.
On 24 August, in a historic ruling, the top court deemed privacy to be a fundamental right under the Constitution. Since it is not an absolute right, it led to the recognition of an established standard against which its violation could be tested and proved in the court of law.
Now that there is a standard—the right to privacy is limited only by fair, just and reasonable “procedure established by law”, the judgement said—the government will have to convince the court that privacy concerns surrounding Aadhaar fulfil the test of reasonable restriction.
Simultaneously, the Centre is the process of drafting a data protection legislation and has appointed an expert group headed by former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna.
There are more than 1.17 billion Aadhaar holders in the country. The batch of petitions challenging various aspects of Aadhaar is likely to be taken up by the apex court in the first week of November.